5 Brain-Friendly Superfoods That Can Easily Be Added To Any Daily Diet
Superfoods seem to be everywhere lately. Some of these trends are foods we’ve eaten all our lives, while others are things we’ve never heard of.
But what are superfoods, really?
The term superfood is by no means scientific. In fact, it’s mostly a marketing gimmick. But it does serve a practical purpose of identifying various types of food that are typically dense in nutritional value and have other beneficial properties.
However, there are a few problems with this new trend. First, not all of these superfoods are available globally, and if they are available, they can be wildly expensive. Second, many of the foods hailed as superfoods lack scientific evidence to support these claims. They tend to be based on traditional knowledge, which can be tricky to navigate. Finally, because of the inherently business-centric nature of the term, it is often misleading.
Take green tea, which is hailed as a superfood for being rich in antioxidants. But that benefit can only be found in organic and freshly culled green tea leaves, whereas many commercially available variants include high levels of processing that leaches out almost all of its nutritional value by the time it reaches store shelves.
So how can consumers navigate the difference between legitimate superfoods versus those simply marked as such? We’ve compiled five foods that have strong scientific evidence regarding their nutritional value, along with proven brain benefits. And these can all easily be incorporated into any daily diet.
1- Olive Oil
Many of us already consume oils and fats daily, as we tend to use these products in our daily cooking. So it’s a great place to incorporate a superfood.
Olive oil is the mainstay of Mediterranean cooking––a diet that is widely accepted to be the best for brain health and Alzheimer’s Disease prevention. Loaded with Vitamin E and antioxidants that help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammations, olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that is particularly beneficial for cardiovascular health and brain cell growth.
However, be cautious when purchasing. Not olive oils are equal in nutrition or health benefits. Extra virgin or first-press olive oil is ideal, with virgin or second-press oil coming in second. Outside of those varieties, regular or commercially processed olive oil offers little more than added flavor.
Alternative: Avocado oil
The avocado fruit is a superfood in itself, and the oil is extracted by cold-pressing the pulp. As delicious as olive oil, avocado oil is rich in oleic acid that is tremendously beneficial for your heart. It also contains antioxidants that help repair free radical damage and promote cell health.
Known affectionately as brain berries here at Kwik Brain, blueberries are chock full of antioxidants that protect brain cells from oxidative damage and prevent degeneration. Blueberries are also rich in phytochemicals––the compounds that give plants their color––and gallic acids. Both of these properties have been linked with improved cognitive performance and memory. They are also naturally sweet, making them a healthy substitution for typical morning sugar-filled treats.
Most berries are great for brain health because of their antioxidant content, but the difference in levels is often negligible. Look for dark-colored berries like cranberries, mulberries, blackberries, etc.
A word of caution – take care to choose fresh or naturally-dried variants. Highly-processed (powdered, refined), preservative-laden, and added-sugar versions cancel out most of the unique benefits these berries offer.
Broccoli has several components that put it high on the list of every brain-healthy diet. It’s rich in Vitamin K, a necessary component in brain cell architecture that’s been linked with better memory in older adults. In addition, it’s an excellent source of choline, a chemical found in brain cell membranes that help protect brain cells. Choline has been linked to aid the flow of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.
But the benefits of this green vegetable don’t stop there. It gets its dark color from the phytochemicals packed in each flower. And is also a great source of glucosinolates that help in reducing oxidative damage and inflammations, as well as other types of antioxidants.
Alternative: cauliflower and cabbage
Broccoli is from the cruciferous vegetable group, of which both cauliflower and cabbage are part of. They too are a great source of antioxidants and have many of the same brain benefits as broccoli.
Eating dark, leafy, green vegetables is essential for your physical and cognitive health. Aside from being rich sources of natural fiber, they are also replete with brain-positive nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Time and again scientific studies have linked better cognitive performance and overall brain health with a steady diet of leafy greens.
Alternative: Kale, Mustard Greens, Swiss Chard
While not as ubiquitous as spinach, these leafy greens are fast becoming a part of a health-conscious diet. While eating these greens on their own may be difficult for some palettes, mixing them with taste-enhancing ingredients like garlic, herbs, and nuts can not only make them tastier, but since these ingredients also have brain benefits of their own, this combination can become a power punch of nutrients.
Last but not the least, the king among brain superfoods: salmon. This fatty saltwater fish is one of nature’s greatest (and tastiest) source of two particular types of omega-3 fatty acids called DHA and EPA. These are an essential component in brain cell regeneration and protection and have been linked to improved memory, cognition, and overall brain performance.
However, take care to choose organically sourced fresh salmon as the canned and packaged variants often contain impurities.
Alternatives: Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines
Cold seawater fishes are all great sources of omega-3, so any of these varieties make excellent substitutions. To avoid higher mercury levels in seafood avoid purchasing larger, predatory fishes, like sharks and swordfish.
The list of brain superfoods is by no means limited to the above five. Garlic, dark chocolate, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, lentils, sweet potatoes, whole grains, chia and pumpkin seeds are all well-known and much-touted superfoods with significant brain benefits.
While certain foods like garlic and whole grains are great for daily consumption, some–– like dark chocolate and walnuts––may need a more cautious approach. Before making significant dietary changes, consult with a nutritionist or a doctor to decide the best approach. Like everything in life, moderation is the key to happiness.